Surgical Tech – Why I serve

Airman 1st Class Makayla Newberry, a 48th Surgical Squadron surgical technologist, focuses on performing surgical procedures at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, April 9, 2018. Newberry assists on multiple surgeries during a typical work day. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christopher S. Sparks)

Airman 1st Class Makayla Newberry, a 48th Surgical Operations Squadron surgical technologist, poses for a photo inside of an operating room at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, April 9, 2018. Newberry has been in the U.S. Air Force for over a year and plans on studying to become a physician’s assistant. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christopher S. Sparks)

Airman 1st Class Makayla Newberry, a 48th Surgical Operations Squadron surgical technologist, and her brother, Garrett Newberry, pose for a photo in Arizona. Newberry is motivated by her brother to pursue her goals in the medical field. (Courtesy Photo)

Airman 1st Class Makayla Newberry, a 48th Surgical Squadron surgical technologist, scrubs her hands in preparation of surgery at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, April 9, 2018. Newberry draws inspiration from her aunt who served in the U.S. Air Force as an operating room nurse. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christopher S. Sparks)

Airman 1st Class Makayla Newberry, a 48th Surgical Operations Squadron surgical technologist, prepares surgical tools during an operation at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, April 9, 2018. Newberry has always had an interest in working in the medical field since she was a teenager. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christopher S. Sparks)

Airman 1st Class Makayla Newberry, a 48th Surgical Squadron surgical technologist, reviews surgical procedures with her co-workers at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, April 9, 2018. Newberry’s work experience coupled with a tragic family accident lead her to pursue a career as a surgical technologist. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christopher S. Sparks)

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- Most military members are asked, “Why did you join?” A question that is simple, yet difficult to answer.

Every U.S. Air Force Airman had a personal version of their “Why?” Some joined for educational benefits, financial stability or even just to better their life. Some to serve their country.

For Airman 1st Class Makayla Newberry, a surgical technologist assigned to the 48th Surgical Operations Squadron, the reason is family.

Newberry’s “Why” sparked as the result of a childhood accident involving her brother, Garrett Newberry.

“He is the reason why I’m in the Air Force today,” Newberry said. “The accident is what drove my interest in pursuing a medical career.”

Her journey began during her youth, while enjoying the last week of summer vacation with her family. They were riding Side by Sides, a type of all-terrain vehicle.

During what seemed like any other outdoors event for them, their lives were forever changed.

In a matter of seconds, as Garrett was driving, he ran over some cattle guards resulting in him losing control of his vehicle. Trying to avoid injury, he jumped out of the ATV.

Tragically, the vehicle ended up tumbling across Garrett’s body. The protective roll cage severed his right leg in the process.

“Life can change in a split-second,” Lori Newberry, Makayla’s mother, said.

As her family called the ambulance, Garrett was bleeding out from his leg, which was held together by only a few tendons.

Watching her brother lying on the ground screaming and thrashing about, Makayla tried to calm him.

“It was panic,” Makayla said. “Everything was happening around me. It was almost like it was in slow motion.”

She remained calm and focused, feeling the anxiety and fear from her parents. This event was the spark in her path to becoming surgical technologist.

“I knew he was hurt very badly, and he could have died,” Makayla said. “I wanted to know how I could fix it.”

Unable to do anything at the time, she observed as Garrett was transported on a medical helicopter to a nearby hospital.

Later that day during surgery, Makayla’s parents were informed Garrett’s lower right leg needed amputation.

With Garrett being in a hospital three hours away from home, and required to remain there, Makayla’s parents stayed with him. However, the beginning of school was approaching leaving Makayla had to live with her aunt and uncle.

“I was terrified,” Makayla said. “I was bullied during school…I wanted so badly to be somewhere else.”

Newberry faced the next chapter of her life emotionally and physically without her parents. Through the experience he found her way to independence by working hard and being resilient.

After her brother and parents returned home, everything changed. Makayla became a part of the recovery process.

This was the first-hand experience that Makayla would carry with her, the experience that would help her understand the extent of rehabilitation and recovery post-surgery.

Through her personal growth and coping with what happened to Garret, Makayla found inspiration in her aunt who served in the U.S. Air Force as an operating room nurse.

“I looked up to her so much,” Makayla said. “She was someone I aspired to be like.”

The admiration of her aunt led her to pursue certified nursing assistance classes during high school. After receiving her certification, she began working as a nurse’s aide at a local hospital after school.

“I enjoy the surgery aspect of helping people,” Makayla said in comparing surgery to helping patients with illnesses.

When she realized her interest in the surgical field, she sought her aunt’s advice about enlisting in the Air Force.

“She opened the door,” Makayla said.

Drawn to the camaraderie, education opportunities, and prestige of the Air Force, she knew enlisting was the right choice.

As a surgical technologist, she is able to help people who have gone through similar situations as her and her family.

“Because of my experience with my brother, I thought I could help people,” she said. “[Surgical patients] need help readjusting and I think I can [help] because I’ve been through it.”

Makayla says she appreciates the support and admiration of her parents in her service, but the person she wants to inspire most is her brother.

“It has been hard for him throughout the years,” she said. “I want to be someone he is proud of. My brother is my absolute best friend in the world and he motivates everything that I do. Everything.”

Having served more than one year in the Air Force, Makayla’s plans are only in the early stages of execution. She plans to become a physician’s assistant and commission as an officer.